It’s officially winter in Melbourne, which means wool socks and a jacket and a tuque. Six of us pile into the van. We wrestle with the stubborn reverse and fiddle with the radio, and then we’re driving through the crisp sunshine across town, Glitch Mob carrying us as we wind around construction detours.
It’s a good day for St. Kilda. We walk the streets until we reach Lentil As Anything on Blessington Street, where a few small groups have gathered outside its doors. Lentil As Anything has quickly become one of my favourite restaurants in Melbourne, mostly because of its philosophy, although its food is delicious as well. You won’t find any price tags on its menus, because they believe you should pay what you feel the food and atmosphere is worth. Volunteers take orders and prepare food. Those who can give more, do; those who are having rough times can pitch in a little less. All the food is vegetarian, and a lot of it is vegan and gluten-free as well. It’s a place that you can’t really feel bad at. The cafes and restaurants next to LAA are empty compared to the bursting restaurant.
After a hearty green curry and soy chai and chats that spread into the afternoon, we drive down to the St. Kilda harbor, which sits next to the giant mouth of the endlessly-lit Luna Park. Kids’ shrieks fill the air as we walk down to the beach, then disappear into the background. Three of us chase one another and roll down grassy hills until we get to the pier leading out to the breakwater.
Five minutes later, we’re watching little penguins hop unevenly up and down the breakwater rocks, completely unfazed by the tourists lining up to see them. It’s beautiful – and free (so don’t head to Phillip Island and pay money for the same thing!). On the way home we pick up food for a potluck, a bag of goon, and the night ends with a backyard bonfire, friends, couchsurfers, foosball, good music, and a healthy dose of salsa dancing. It’s days like this that get lost so quickly in the backroads of your memory, but really, end up being the bits that define a time and a place for you.
I’m glad I didn’t stay home and write job applications.